Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Book reviews!!!!!!!

Some moviebook reviews today. It's what I do when not watching films - I read about them. Or talk about them. Pity my friends.

For a while now one such friend and I have been embroiled in debate about cult movies. She claims Star Wars is a cult movie, and while I agree it does share some traits I don't think it is. True, it has an obsessive fan following. But the flipside of that which makes it cult is that the film doesn't appeal to anyone outside of that following. Not appreciated by the mainstream, but adored by a select few. Dude, Star Wars got itself voted top on the C4 top 100 films ever. I had to seriously tweak the results of the Ultimate Movie Poll* to make sure it came second to the Godfather trilogy. Now compare that to some films I would say were cult. Brazil (161th), Blade Runner (14th oh crap), Withnail and I (41st), Spinal Tap (190th)...

Ok, well that wasn't very impressive. I used to say that the final definition of a cult film was something my mother didn't like, but after having discovered yesterday (to my absolute shock, may I add) that she really liked Reservoir Dogs, 254 f-words and all, I'm gonna have to re-evaluate that criteria.

I admit it's a sketchy subject. Some films, like Four Weddings and a Funeral are never going to be cult. And some films, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show are, no two ways about it. And there's a whole scale in between, with a rather gray patch at the centre containing things like Star Wars. Only I wouldn't have put it there if not for said friend.

The thing is, cult is such a loose label. It means dedication, quotability, late night discussions, being misunderstood. A high number I would say were either a bit disgusting, disturbing, bad taste or reliant on black humour. But not all of them. Make the definition too wide, and you can include Donnie Darko, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, A Clockwork Orange, Resevoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski and Requiem for a Dream. The significance of those films is that they're all in the top 20 films ever as voted by Certain schools of thought add the cult tag to all of those, other schools could claim any film with that many votes can't be properly cult. Incedentally, seeing as this post seems to be measured by my mum's opinion, she says that a chart topped by Fight Club and Pulp Fiction is wrong because the majority of people whose opinion counts wouldn't say they were favourites. Only that's just the gist. She didn't say the ymdb voters didn't have a right to an opinion, that was my interpretation.

At the same time, it has to have a certain notoriety. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is one of the great non-cult movies of our time - endlessly quotable, my mother didn't have a clue, and several dedicated fanspots online all of which I am a member. Yet not enough people have heard of it to make it a true cult film.

Can you guys see the dielemma? So many attributes, which ones rank top? Well, I'd say the fan following and mainstream alienation came hand in hand - Have you see the obsessive Phantom of the Opera fans? I'd say they were culty, but you don't have to be a member to enjoy the film.
And a film which alienates everybody hardly counts as cult either.

So here's the catch. If Phantom of the Opera, an enjoyable movie with some very hardcore fans is definitely not cult, I fail to see how Star Wars, a good fun space romp with a clique of nutty obsessives (no offence meant, of course - you should see my R+GareD avatar collection. All 600 of them.) could ever count? Anybody can enjoy Star Wars, it's a kids film. Not to say kids films can't necessarily be cult, but...well you can see my point?

So howsabout entertainment Weekly's top 50 cult movies? I'd say that was an extreme list en general, a long way from the dreaded grey area - all obscure stuff, pretty bad taste. It's interesting to note they have an entire catagory for "senseless act of violence".

And now for the book review. Because we found the Rough Guide to Cult Movies. Now I like the Rough Guide series - I thought the Lord of the Rings one was excellent considering how small it was compared to the size of the subject. And it was interesting, especially the section about Leon Trotsky's films. However, while in principle I agreed with its definition, some of their choices were pretty desperate. Ever seen that well known cult flick Zulu? Me neither...Oooh look, the baddies are coming to get Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -better get the toast out. yes, fellas, it's a list that's extreme in the other direction. A list so all-encompassing that Groundhog Day, The Count of Monte Cristo, School of Rock, The Godfather and Pirates of the Carribbean (I kid you not...) all come under the umbrella which is cult. So nice book, and especially nice sidenotes (loved the section about which films were the first to use which swear words), but I wouldn't take everything in there as gospel.

<-----------get real! <--- er, possibly---> Really culty---------->

Four Weddings 1 Zulu 2 Star Wars {Grey Area} Blade Runner 3 Withnail 4 RHPS

Cult Movies book:1 My Friend:2 Me:3 EW:4

And now for the other book, one of a series of 6 "A Cinematic History of {insert genre here}". Sounds highbrow, doesn't it? Well it's a series of large-text pages interspersed with colour photos to make up for actual depth. That's not to say I don't like it, mind you. The other ones look a bit dull, but the lumped"A Cinematic History of Gangsters and Detectives" caught my eye because of the Untouchables picture on the cover, and also because...well, you know. And I must say I adore it! The films are in roughly three catagories - those I've seen and loved, those I haven't seen and am going to love (after having looked forward to seeing a film for a long time, I always make damn sure I enjoy it...ah, the limitless world of self delusion!), and films I haven't really heard of but am sure to like because they're hanging around in such illustrious company. On the other hand, this book is fatally flawed. At a mere 30 full-colour pages, and with tricky words like genre and censorship highlighted and glossirified, it's obviously aimed at children (add to that I found it in my school library), which prensents an interesting conundrum - a kiddie book all about films they can't see till they're 18.

They're not all 18s, true. And I can't be bothered to count the percentage which are because it's obsessive. But of the 24 I can comment on with any certainty, I'd say that 3 were suitable and would be enjoyed by the age the book's aimed at - Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job and Vertigo. And I'm not so sure they'd understand the last one.

Still, it's pretty much spoiler free (i.e. haven't spotted anything significant yet, though they could have given a little less detail about the Italian Job, and there is a dead body on the final page, though I don't think anyone who hadn't seen said film could identify it) and any book which mentions Resevoir Dogs three times can't be all bad. And while I admit it has it's audience seriously confused -too simple for adults, not relevant enough for kids - I love it, and it serves perfectly as a browsable list of films I'd enjoy.

*the Ultimate Movie Poll is a private project which I'll share when finished. The criteria is this: a list of the 100 greatest films ever, no more or less, from any country or time period, either selected by critics or voted. These have been compiled into one bumper list by giving film 100 1 point, and film 1 100 points. Admittedly it's not foolproof - many of the lists are quite old, which is unfair to newer stuff, but then again in these lists people vote for modern stuff over older in general; and you should see the problems I had with trilogies! (half the lists credited the Godfather/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Three Colours movies seperately and half credited them as complete works of three). I'm not sure it's conclusive, but I am satisfied it's close.


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